Following the success of the Integrity Summit in Dhanusha on March 1st 2019, we hosted our 12th Integrity Summit again at Dhanusha, on 21st December 2019, with the support of our Integrity Icon 2015 winner, Pradip Raj Kanel, who is the Chief District Officer of Dhanusha. The Summit focused on the importance of integrity and the value of institutionalizing it. By Ashmita Sharma
Mohammad Lalbabu Raut Gaddhi, Chief Minister of Province No. 2; Pradip Raj Kanel, CDO of Dhanusha District; Dr. Bhogendra Jha, Vice-president of Niti Aayog; and Dr. Surendra Labh Karna, Associate Professor of Tribhuvan University, shared their views on integrity and accountability in the public service. Many local representatives, bureaucrats, teachers, security personnel, social workers, scholars, media, civil society, and the public also joined this Open Discussion Program.
During the last summit, a nine-point commitment named the ‘Janakpur Dham Declaration’ was made after numerous discussions and collective efforts from the participants. One of the commitments was to start a Nagarik Nigrani Sansthan (Public Monitoring Committee), which has already been established this year and registered based on the Organization Registration Act 2034. It has been actively working against corruption. In the future, we hope to continue it and develop it further. Here are the highlights of discussions at the Integrity Summit in Dhanusha.
Integrity in Public Service for Prosperity
The dream of having a prosperous Nepal, on both the national and regional levels, is possible but only if public officials become more responsible and accountable. The values of good governance, integrity, and accountability should start with public servants and government officials. Everyone understands and uses the term ‘good governance’ and ‘integrity’ in speeches and discussions, but do we implement these values in our daily life? Instead of talks, integrity should be action-oriented.
If people are committed to implementing integrity in their behavior, positive changes become visible. Unfortunately, we often only commit to integrity during public events while our behavior and actions remain just the opposite behind closed doors. In reality, it is only when the conditions for proper implementation of the rule of law are present and every person has access justice, that prosperity can be achieved.
Law, Order, and Integrity
Law and corruption are inversely related. When there is proper law and order, corruption automatically decreases, and vice versa. Therefore, in order to minimize corruption, it is important to focus on maintaining law and order. It is equally necessary to have a proper implementation mechanism and regular monitoring to fight off corruption.
Media for Integrity Building
Media has an equally important role in promoting integrity and fighting off corruption. We hear news of corruption every day everywhere, where all the government officials are labeled as corrupt and dishonest, but is this generalization viable? Instead of focusing only on negative deeds, the media should also highlight the good deeds of honest and responsible public service providers. The opinion of the public today is shaped by the media, which is nowhere near positive. Those with integrity and honesty should be promoted and brought to the limelight.
From Individual Integrity to Institutional Integrity
Integrity starts from the individual. No one can force integrity upon a person, rather integrity comes from within, but only after individuals themselves commit to becoming honest and accountable, denying bribes in any form. Saying no to a bribe and building resistance from external pressure also requires a lot of courage. Therefore, adopting and implementing integrity calls for courage and determination.
A young government official who joins the force with a burning passion to do something positive and bring change soon becomes disappointed. They face numerous challenges and pressure to do things that are immoral and unethical. Whatever they do, their image in society has become negative and corrupt. Their enthusiasm is neutralized in the given work environment and social pressure.
The Positive Approach
Not all public servants are dishonest and corrupt. In many cases, the service providers are doing their best to provide services to the public diligently and honestly but their actions remain unrecognized. Accountability Lab’s role is to make the efforts of individual do-gooders known to the wider public. Integrity Icon campaign is a third-party evaluation of a public servant that focuses on the positive and encourages the good examples. These examples of public servants practicing integrity require encouragement and appreciation to grow further. It is also better to have interaction programs and discussions about integrity in public life to encourage positive change.
Ashmita Sharma is a Program Manager for Integrity Icon at Accountability Lab Nepal.